Monday, June 11, 2018

Forever in Rider Nation

I was happily strolling the isles of Costco Saturday and completely oblivious to the Roughrider roster releases.  That was until I returned home and saw the post on the ABC Rider Fan Facebook page. 

What the.....

Rob Bagg?  Bakari Grant?  Chad Owens too?

Man, cut down day SUCKS!

It doesn't matter how much a fan prepares or rationalizes the changes to their beloved football team - these changes shock you.  Sure, the Riders *had* to cut players to get down to the regulation 46 man roster and the Riders brass have far more expertise as my own and far more tools in hand to make these decisions than I do and for that I am thankful because it has to be the hardest job in sports.  I cannot imagine how hard it must have been to tell Rob Bagg he was no longer a Roughrider - the only CFL team he'd ever played with in his career.  The same goes for Chad Owens whose off season training had been featured on The Grind.  Bakari Grant may be the hardest one to swallow since he was coming off a 1000 yard year.

We love these guys.  We feel like we have a relationship with them.  They play for our favourite team and they've entertained us.  So why can't we be happy for them?  Be happy and celebrate that they were on OUR team in the first place instead of relishing in their demise.
Thank you for one of the Most fun years of football Rider Nation! Every good thing must come to an end... ~ Bakari Grant
Last week at Green and White Day I am ashamed to admit when Chad Owens came over to sign my BEL13VE tee shirt I felt a bit weak in the knees.  He looked me in the eyes and smiled.  Maybe he recognized me from one of the other 2 times I'd been lucky enough to meet him.  Aren't we blessed as CFL fans to be able to meet these athletic idols! 

Some other tidbits from Green and White Day.  It was pretty hysterical when Charleston Hughes set down his helmet to sign autographs and Caleb Holley thinking it was a fans signed it.  That still makes me chuckle.  The more I see of Charleston Hughes the more I am appreciating that he came to be on the Green and White this year.  He told me he's looking forward to sacking Bo Levi and I told him to hit him hard.  He quipped "I might even take a fine." 

As most of the players met with fans they asked how we are and said thanks for coming out.  When Ed Gainey came to me along the fence line of SMF Field I said "So you're going to get 10 interceptions this year?"  "No", he stated. "Sixteen".  I LOVE IT!

So we get to have all these amazing experiences with these CFL players and it totally and completely endears us to them.  Does that relationship mean they should get to play forever?  
“We certainly are appreciative of all the people who watch our games,” Jones said. “You have to have fans in order to have a league. At the same time, you have to be willing to make hard decisions. If you start letting the media or somebody else’s opinion on the decision that you made affect you, you end up being weak.” ~ Chris Jones
In an interview with the Leader-posts Murray McCormick Rob Bagg talked about an ankle injury he had at Training Camp in Saskatoon and he decided to continue on instead of resting up.  He said that probably wasn't a smart thing to do.  We only do what we think is best at the time, right?  I'm in no way saying his career was over but sometimes these decisions of when not to play have to come from other people.  Is Chris Jones at fault for having a role in which he's paid to put a viable team on the field in order to try to win the fans a championship?   

Some people (when scrolling through the Twitter pages) appear to be fans of the players and seem to prefer their favourite players be kept over the betterment of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.  I just fail to understand that mentality and I feel like I've been preaching this same story since 2015/16.  When Chris Jones arrived in Riderville he cut an enormous amount of players and while some did go on to be signed with other teams many did not and when you look around the league the ONLY player still on a roster is Weston Dressler who has also spent every season banged up.  There is a time to move on and if you don't evolve and continue to want to improve you will end up being weak and you will not win and there will not be any championship dreams.

The 2017 Roughriders football season ended in the East Division final losing to the team, the Toronto Argonauts, who would go on to win the Grey Cup.  For some that still equals no wins so what difference does it make.  Well for this fan it makes a world of difference to play into the post season or miss it completely.  It's the difference of a 3-15 season or 10-8 with Eastern Semi-final and Eastern Final games.  Of course I want to win it all!  But, I can also see that we aka The Riders, always need to be adding faster talent and often that means younger talent and that also means bidding some of our favourites adieu.  While our team is doing this, every CFL team is doing it and the Riders have to keep up or surpass with what is going on around the league.

I am a fan of the team with the name across the front of the jersey...not the back.  It's not about individuals.  It's about a team and putting the BEST team on field for 2018.

I wish all the players leaving their respective teams well.  To Chad Owens, Bakari Grant and especially Rob Bagg, we will not forget what you've sacrificed for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.  Even though you won't be on the field for us any longer - you will be forever in our hearts and an integral part of Rider Nation.



Friday, June 1, 2018

Making the Grade

If you know me, you'll know I'm really stressed this week because in real life I'm a piano teacher and it's our music school's major music festival this week. I've found myself struggling with how to justify the senior classes adjudication. At one point the adjudicator said that the students themselves know how they did and it doesn't really matter what place or mark he gives them.  If only that medal didn't mean anything.  That single performance doesn't show all the hard work, learning and practice that goes into that 4 minute performance and single judgment. I wish everyone could see how students persevere, how they overcome fear, how far they've come since they started learning their pieces in January.  Then it dawned on me, perhaps grading your football team is similar.  How do you figure out which players deserve a roster spot? How do you figure out who gets sent home? It's a quandary...and they're all working towards the biggest medal of all - The Grey Cup.

One thing that came out of Sunday's preseason game between the Riders and Eskimos was that it seemed the fans looked at these two teams very differently.  Most Roughrider fans looked to evaluate the players.  We wanted to see how certain players in certain positions reacted and played in a real time game situation. Because of this there was a long long list of starters who stayed back in Saskatoon.  The Edmonton Eskimos played many starters which made sense since their game was at home and didn't have to transport a plane load of players to another city.  Eskimo fans were quick to rub it in Rider fans faces that they won.  Rider fans were quick to point out it was a meaningless game.  Why do fans put so much stock into winning in preseason?  In recent years, 2013 for example, the Saskatchewan Roughriders lost one game and won the other preseason game. Did this predict how the regular season would finish or the play off run ending in a Grey Cup Championship? The Eskimos in that same year finished the preseason with that same record.  

Marquise Williams was brought in last season and there was plenty of hype surrounding his arrival. All it took the phrase "he broke Darian Durant's records in college" and we were all hooked not really knowing anything else about him. In Sunday's preseason game Williams had all the same body language too.  It would be sooooo easy for Ridernation to fall in love with him - that is, if he wasn't running around, not seeing the field and pretty much failing in all facets.  It was pretty disappointing considering he's had that year of being on the practice roster under his belt. He should have shown the most poise after a year, not the least. It must be hard to end your career in this way. You've played football most of your life and after a quarter of football you're done. 

Very thankfully teaching piano lessons and helping to mould young pianists is not the same as crafting the next batch of football players.  Music is and can be a life long interest.  For a very select few retirement from the CFL game doesn't necessarily mean the end of their career and it could just be a launching point into another phase of their football life.  For example Darian Durant announced his retirement one day and a short time later CKRM announced he would be joining the Rider Radio pregame broadcast with a segment called Doubles Take.  How cool is that?!  I'm sure DD has a wealth of knowledge to share with us.  There is a similar story for the newly retired Nik Lewis who has made his home in Regina for some time now.  Nik not only got to be in Roughrider camp as a guest coach but he as well will have a segment on the Rider Radio pregame show.  I will look forward to all their insights.

Camp opened on May 20th and while I did attend on the holiday Monday I haven't been able to get out there otherwise.  What I did notice is there is a big void of CFL media while all the regulars are there, the media circus has found a home in Hamilton instead following Johnny Manziel.  Last year that was the Roughrider story with Vince Young being in camp and well, this year, things in Rider camp are relatively quiet.  There has been so much discussion about Johnny Football coming to the CFL for what feels like EVER.  Other American players come to the CFL thinking they're going to blow up the league and often usually end up slinking away.  The CFL is not a joke.  You have to be athletic to play the CFL.  No one takes a down off.  If Manziel is indeed serious and he works hard then he might have a chance.  Good luck to him and the Hamilton Tiger Cats...just not too much *wink*  

The Riders time in Saskatoon is soon coming to an end and I know I've been waiting for Josiah St John to step up.  It was so disappointing for him to come up injured at the start of camp but even more so to see him leave Thursday's practice "injured" on a mental practice day.  From my understanding the day was much like a walk through.  I think this is a situation to keep an eye on.  Pulling from my teaching experience, when a student doesn't seem to show motivation or drive during lessons or practice then the rest of the situation doesn't work out very successfully.  Of course I don't know the man, but it sure doesn't bode well to me when he held out of his first CFL camp for contract negotiations and then really doesn't show up at his next camp.  In 2017 he only dressed for one game and was a scratch for most of the season.  This was very much a make or break season for St John and I'm sad that once again our draft pick seems to not pan out. How are we to know? We simply can't know.  We will all continue to watch what happens and assess the situation.

Tomorrow is the yearly Green and White day at SMF.  The forecast is for rain.  In 2013 I dragged my husband to Griffiths Stadium for Green and White day because I was hell bent on meeting all these guys who were brought in to stack our team.  I didn't get to meet Geroy Simon.  We did have to stand in the rain for what must have been an hour in the rain.  I recall the day following the 2013 Grey Cup win my husband said "remember standing in the rain at Green and White day?  Was it worth it?"  OMG A THOUSAND YESES IT WAS WORTH IT!!!  You may also know that there is no fan base as superstitious as Rider Nation.  If that experience in 2013 means anything - then I predict we are in for one heck of a ride in 2018.

It was brought to my attention that at this time of year many CFL fans are restocking their closets with gear and I was also reminded of my blog criticizing the sizing of CFL merchandise.  While I did get a response nothing has been addressed.  There is a new line of clothing in my Rider Store which I did check out.  In the email I received advertising it the clothing was touted as being comfortable and a new fabric.  This did appear true and the sizing went to a 3X in ladies however, it was still not the standard size.  I don't want to discourage anyone from supporting their team BUT I did also recently purchase a very comfortable tee shirt from Giant Tiger for $15.  I personally refuse to be uncomfortable in over priced clothing.  Once this is changed I will once again support the Riders and CFL by purchasing their clothing.  In the meantime, it's all about the accessories!

I wish that I could end this blog with saying I'll see you at the game when in fact I cannot say that.  The same responsibilities that have kept me from Training Camp will also keep me from the home preseason Rider game against the Calgary Stampeders as well as the Home Opener.  Who thought the home opener on a Friday night in June was a good idea?  I mean we have the largest travelling fan base in the nation and a 7:30 start on a Friday is less than ideal.  I will be teaching my piano students and wishing I was there.  My tickets are for sale through the Rider Ticket Exchange if you are wanting some great seats.  The end zone is one of the most fun places to be for a Rider Game.

Instead.  I will leave you with this MAJOR announcement.  I have created a fan page on Facebook.  It's for readers of this blog, Twitter followers, friends, family to go to discuss CFL news and while it will obviously be Rider fan friendly all other fans are also welcome.  Join the discussion at ABC Rider Fan page.  Just search for it and wait for approval.  I look forward to sharing even more content with all of you!  Even you Bomber fans *smile*

Happy June.  Happy CFL season 2018!